– BY MICHAEL KNIGHT
Defending Champion/Team To Beat
Carl Albert returned to the mountain top of Class 5A football when they avenged a regular season loss to Bishop McGuinness and won the state title. They have a new head coach after hall of famer Gary Rose retired in January. Despite that, the Titans are still a force to be reckoned with as we head into the 2017 season. The Titans have fought to reclaim their spot on top of 5A football and they’re not just going to give it up this season.
Ardmore’s potent rushing attack could very well be the top rushing attack in the state. Ardmore fell short of making it to the state championship game a year ago but the Tigers return key pieces to make another run at it. They’re in a brutal district with fellow contender Lawton Mac as well as Altus and Del City. The tough district slate can either make or break the Tigers this fall. We’re thinking it’s going to prepare them for a deep run in the playoffs.
The Irish were one win away from capturing the state championship. They had beaten Carl Albert during the regular season and had one of the best players in the state in Rubell Goe. The Irish will be out for redemption this fall and they have the team to back it up. While they have to find someone to make up for the loss of Goe to graduation, the Irish have plenty of talent elsewhere. Don’t be surprised if McGuinness makes another run at the title.
Lawton MacArthur is a few years removed from their state championship run in 2014. However, the Highlanders have proved that they are one of, if not the most consistent program in 5A football today. They’re always at the top of the rankings and consistently winning ten or more games and making it to the semifinals. This year is no different for the boys from Mac. They have some new faces but at a program like Lawton Mac, they just reload.
All the power seems to be out west with Ardmore, Bishop McGuinness, Carl Albert and Lawton Mac. However, you shouldn’t overlook the Bishop Kelley Comets. Kelley has been building to making a run this season. Several of the players on this year’s team have been playing and starting for the Comets since they were sophomores. The Comets have been a consistent playoff threat in 5A but they want to become a true state championship threat.
Storylines To Follow
New Era At Carl Albert
During 22 seasons, 219 wins and 10 state championships, Gary Rose walked the sidelines at Carl Albert. He was the man in charge of building the Titan football program into one of the most successful in the state. He announced his retirement in January and all of a sudden, one of the state’s best football programs needed a new head coach. They hired from within when they named longtime assistant Mike Corley the next head coach. Corley has been at Carl Albert for 14 seasons and spent the last 9 seasons as Rose’s defensive coordinator. Now he’s in charge of the Titan program that is one of, if not the best in Class 5A football. Anytime you have a program like Carl Albert with a first year head coach, who’s following a legend like Rose, it’s always going to bring intrigue to that first season.
Westside Dominance Continuing
Class 5A was owned by westside teams during the 2016 season. All four semifinalists were from the westside and when you look at the top four teams in this year’s preseason rankings, you’ll see those same familiar names. In fact, the westside has owned Class 5A for quite some time now. 9 out of the last 11 state champions have come from the westside. The only team from the eastside to win during that timespan was Booker T Washington. They did it twice, but they’re not even in 5A anymore. Eastside teams have been able to make it to the championship game. In this decade we’ve seen Collinsville, East Central, McAlester and Skiatook all make title game appearances. However, every team that has stepped up has been sat down. It doesn’t appear it’s going to change this year.
Who Emerges From 5A-4
If there is a hope from the eastside teams, look no further than district 5A-4, which has some teams that have the potential to make a run at a state championship. It all starts with preseason favorite Bishop Kelley. We have the Comets as our darkhorse to compete for a state title this year. With plenty of talent on both sides of the ball returning, Bishop Kelley looks primed for a deep run. Then there’s teams like Collinsville and Skiatook who know what it takes to make it to the state championship game. The Cardinals and Bulldogs will both rely on their running game to lead them to a deep playoff run. After surprising a lot of people around the state, you can’t overlook Tahlequah this fall either. One thing is for sure, the district was fun to watch last year and it’ll be fun once again.
Players To Watch
Bryce Alonso – Tight End/Linebacker – Bishop Kelley
Bishop Kelley’s Bryce Alonso was sidelined with an injury last year and kept him from having a potential breakout season. This year, Alonso is healthy and looks to do some damage in Class 5A. Alonso will make an impact for the Comets on offense as well as defense. He’s one of the more athletic players that Bishop Kelley has had in the last few seasons.
Chantz Scurry – Running Back – Ardmore
Ardmore has had one of the best rushing attacks in the state during this decade. Running back Chantz Scurry has been one of the best running backs to come through the program over the last few years. Scurry was one of the best home run hitters in the state last season, breaking off long run after long run in the Ardmore option attack.
Dadrion Taylor – Running Back – Carl Albert
While Carl Albert was winning a state title last year, most eyes were on the quarterback position. However, the Titans saw the emergence of 2019 running back Dadrion Taylor. The junior running back ran for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore and averaged nearly 10 yards per carry. With the graduation of their quarterback, the Titans will rely more on Taylor this year.
Grayson Boomer – Tight End/Defensive End – Collinsville
Collinsville junior Grayson Boomer is already rated as the number one tight end in the country according to some recruiting services. So it’s easy to understand why he would be on this list. Don’t overlook what Boomer can do on the defensive side of the ball either. However, with his size and speed, Boomer is going to be a match-up nightmare for Class 5A defenses.
T.K. Wilkerson – Running Back/Linebacker – Skiatook
Another player who is an absolute star on both sides of the ball is Skiatook’s T.K. Wilkerson. While it’s still up in the air what Wilkerson will play at the next level, one thing is for sure, he’s going to make a lot of plays for Skiatook this fall. Wilkerson ran for over 1,000 yards as a junior last year and expects to have a bigger workload this fall.
Mark Your Calendars
September 1 – Bishop McGuinness AT Del City
These two teams are very familiar with one another. This will be the fourth meeting in less than two years. They’ve met in the playoffs the last two seasons and opened up the 2016 season against one another. Del City upset the Irish in week one before McGuinness won in the playoffs by 39 points.
September 8 – Bishop McGuinness AT Bishop Kelley
The Bishop Battle is one of the better rivalries in high school football today and the bar is even higher this year. Both teams are ranked in the top five as we head into the regular season. The two teams have split the last four meetings and each one was decided by seven points are less.
October 6 – Bishop McGuinness AT Carl Albert
Let’s see who wins round three. Bishop McGuinness won the district meeting with Carl Albert and went on to win the district. The Titans got the last laugh by beating the Irish to win the state championship. The winner of this game has to be considered the favorite to win the 5A title.
October 13 – Bishop Kelley AT Skiatook
While the majority of attention in 5A football is out west, don’t overlook 5A-4. And don’t overlook this match-up on October 13th. Bishop Kelley will travel to Skiatook. If the Comets can get the road win, they’ll more than likely be in the driver’s seat to win the district crown.
November 3 – Ardmore AT Lawton MacArthur
We’ll have to wait all the way until the end of the regular season to see this match-up. Ardmore and Lawton MacArthur are the heavyweights in the other westside district. We’ll know how serious each team is about being a state title contender by this game. It’ll more than likely decide the district champ.
Prediction For Title Game With Champion
Carl Albert Over Bishop McGuinness
Out of all the classes to predict a championship game with a champion, Class 5A is the absolute hardest. I can make a legitimate argument for any of the top five teams in 5A to win the state title. Not a lot separates the contenders as of right now. Things can obviously shake out differently during the season. However, we have to make a pick right now and right now we’re going with the sequel. The Titans and Irish meet in district play and there’s a decent shot they’ll see each other again in the playoffs. We’re thinking that match-up could take place with another gold ball on the line. As for who wins that critical match-up, the Titans have firepower that is going to be hard to stop. We think 5A is going to be a shootout this year and as of right now, we’ll take the Titans.